What is a dementia clock?

Written by Jack Walsh11/08/23


Dementia Care

What are dementia friendly clocks?

If you or a loved one is living with dementia, memory loss, confusion, and difficulties processing information can make it difficult to read and understand a traditional analogue clock. 

This means it can be easy to lose track of time, miss important things like doctors appointments, take medication at the wrong time of day, or make daily tasks more difficult. For family members and friends it can cause a lot of worry, especially if they make plans to meet and their loved one doesn’t turn up, or if their loved one leaves the house during the night thinking it’s morning. 

Dementia clocks have been specially designed by dementia experts to offer a simple solution to anyone struggling to tell the time. They come with a wide range of functionalities and types to suit both preference and the different levels of dementia. 


Why do people with dementia struggle to tell the time?

As brain function declines, the logical cognition parts of the brain used for telling time doesn’t work as well, meaning when a person with dementia looks at a regular clock face they may not remember how to read it or what the numbers mean. This is without the added complication that clocks can look quite different – some may have confusing layouts, lack numbers, or have hands that are too close in colour to the clock face. 

Elderly people with dementia can easily lose track of time, month, or even season. So much of our life is focused on telling the time; without this knowledge, people can become confused, anxious, and angry, and it can have a big impact on the quality of life. 

Being able to read and draw a clock face is often one of the tests doctors use to determine a diagnosis of dementia. It involves drawing a standard clock face on a blank piece of paper – adding the numbers in the correct places, and drawing the clock hands indicating a specific time. Doctors look at elements of the clock drawing to determine the likelihood of dementia – such as how well they drew the circle, the spacing between the numbers, and whether they drew the hour and minute hands pointing at the correct time.

The clock test has an accuracy between 59% and 85% in determining early-stage dementia. However, the clock test cannot distinguish between different forms of dementia.


What are the benefits of a dementia clock?

Dementia can be overwhelming both for the person with dementia and their loved ones, but there are plenty of ways to make life a little easier – including owning a dementia clock. These specialist clocks come in different forms from simplified analogue clocks with large text and numbers, to a talking button clock or alarm clock with a large digital display screen. 

 A dementia clock can be a helpful tool for people to feel more orientated with everyday life – displaying task reminders, offering voice prompts, and clearly communicating the time of day. Some dementia clocks also allow family members to add notes and messages.

Keep in mind – if a dementia clock becomes an integral part of a daily routine or a source of comfort, it’s important that it continues to work correctly. Some clocks come with a battery backup feature which can be helpful in the event of a power cut, for example.


What are different types of dementia clocks available?

There are many types of specialist clocks for people living with dementia, but the choice of clock should depend on the stages of dementia someone is experiencing and which kind of dementia symptoms they have.

Day clocks

These simplified clocks help people keep track of what day of the week it is, as well as the time of day.  Some also display whether it’s morning, afternoon or evening. They can be helpful for those who feel disorientated when they can’t tell the difference between day and night. Some Day clocks feature customisable alerts to help people perform certain tasks at the right time each day too, making them a good choice for people struggling with memory. 

Examples of dementia day clocks –

Relish Day Hub – features task alerts and auto-dimming feature which lowers the light of the HD digital display in the evenings. Recommended for people in the earlier stages of dementia. 

Cambrian Day Clock – Rather than showing the exact time, this clock uses a traditional clock face style to show the day of the week, and whether it’s morning, afternoon, or evening. It may be suitable for people in the mid stages of dementia who are regularly effected by cognitive impairment. 


Day/Night clocks

These clocks will usually display the time, along with a background or illustration that shows whether it is day or nighttime. This is often a sun and a blue sky during the day, and then a black sky with stars in the night time hours. These may be a good choice for bedside clocks, and may help minimise certain sundowning behaviours.

Examples –

Day & Night Wall Clock – a basic analogue design with a graphic that changes depending on the time

Training clock – for more advanced dementia, some family caregivers have found a day and night clock like this helpful. While marketed as a child’s clock, the simple display and clear distinction between the day and nighttime coloured lights have been noted as helping people with dementia keep track of the whether it’s time to get up from bed or not. 


Analogue wall clocks

These usually feature a larger than average clock face and bold, high-contrast numbers and clock hands that can be easier to read and comprehend. They’re easy to install throughout the house too, often only requiring a couple of AA batteries. 

As it can become more difficult to read a traditional clock face as dementia progresses, these clocks may not be suitable for people with middle to late-stage dementia.

Example –

Automatic clock – featuring large numbers against a clear white background 


Digital clocks

– These simple clocks have a large LED display that shows the time, and sometimes the day of the week and the date. Some digital clocks can also be programmed to have reminders of tasks to do at certain times of day, such as taking medication, and a range of custom alarm options, such as recording personalised messages in a familiar voice. They’re ideal for people who struggle with their awareness of time and often miss appointments or events.

Digital rosebud reminder clock – A wall or desk clock with audio, visual, and image reminders, and a large bright display.  A helpful tool to support daily memory. 

Radio controlled digital clock – a simple easy to read clock with a large clear screen that set the correct time automatically, including when the clocks change. It also features an attractive wood-effect design. 

myhomehelper Clock & Online Memory Aid – an all in one clock, diary, reminder, and video calling tool. 


Calendar clocks

A digital calendar clock will usually display the week, month, year and season. More elaborate clocks may also display weather information too, which can be useful for those who struggle with getting dressed in the right clothing in the morning. Confusion is a key concern for those with dementia, these types of clock usually display the current time of day prominently, with any additional information in smaller text. These clocks are useful for people with dementia who believe they may be in the past.

Calendar wall clock – This automatic calendar adjusts itself for all irregular months and leap years, as well as daylight saving time. 

Alarm calendar clock – features 12 alarms settings to alert the user to crucial tasks like taking medicine, and appointments, to showering or walking the dog.  

Talking clocks

A talking clock will tell the person the time or date. They often come in the form of a single large function button which the user presses when they want to know the time – this makes these types of clock a popular choice for people living with poor vision too. Current digital tools like the ‘Alexa’ can also notify users of current events and updates using voice commands. 

Examples – 

Talking button clock – rather than a digital display or standard clock face this clock is a single large white button, which when pressed tells the time and date. It’s useful for people in the early and mid stages of dementia, as well as those with visual impairment. 

Dementia watches

Telling the time isn’t only essential in your own home. dementia watches can help a person feel more confident about time and place when out and about in public spaces too. 

Easy to see watch – an analogue watch with a large face for people with limited vision 

Talking watch –  Simply press the button on the side to hear the time spoken in a clear female voice 

Where can dementia clocks be bought?

In recent years dementia clocks have become more popular; therefore, you can easily purchase them from several different retailers, including the charity Alzheimer’s society, which stocks a range of dementia clocks. Research the type of clocks you may need and read customer reviews to ensure you purchase the most suitable clock for yourself or your loved one.

How else can I help my loved one manage dementia symptoms?

How else you help manage dementia symptoms depends on the individual. Focus on what the person still has rather than what they have lost. Try to see things from their perspective and recognise what eases their stress.

Other than the practical strategies to help, such as dementia clocks and setting reminders or prompts, you can also use social strategies to help ease their symptoms. Social strategies can include taking them to socialise with friends or family, helping them carry on with their usual hobbies or joining new activity groups. Also, focus on the positives in everyday life by using humour and still being able to spend time together.

Some people may not accept their diagnosis.

When someone first receives a diagnosis of dementia, they may not accept or understand it and therefore be resistant to help and support.

When addressing that they need extra help, frame it as why it would be an added benefit for both of you or the whole family, rather than highlighting it's because of what they can no longer do themselves. Also, try to introduce the support gradually; for example, if you want to arrange care at home, talk about it in more general terms and maybe start with having a Carer in for only a few hours a week or day.  


Making sure your loved one sticks to a routine can also be helpful if they struggle with time, confusion and generally not feeling orientated. For example, always prepare food for them at the same time each day and ensure they wash at the same time every morning or evening; this will allow them to at least know what time of day it is.

Read more about dementia

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